Can a team really win everything with linemen cut off by the 2016-17 Cleveland Browns?
If the Kansas City Chiefs victory Super Bowl LV on Sunday it will mean that the offensive line played absolutely no role, and so maybe that Cleveland Browns waste their money on Star Offensive Linemen. This may sound crazy, but was there ever a Super Bowl offensive line as exhausted as Kansas City’s?
What’s even crazier is that the Chiefs have had a Cleveland flair in their line for the past few years, as the best linemen (center Austin Reiter and guard-turned-tackle Andrew Wylie) were on the Browns ranks from 2016 to 2017. 31 and have not been described as exceptionally adept on the offensive or anywhere else on the matter. Mainstay Mitchell Schwartz, the former Brown whose departure destroyed the 2016 crime, was on IR for the last half of the season.
The prevailing view, however, is that violations of the Chief’s offensive line play absolutely no role, and Patrick Mahomes and his company are -3-point favorites that are expected to prevail in an air fireworks show. Losing all-pros and replacing them with backups near the NFL minimum wage can be easily shaken off. The Chiefs “Big Three” of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are presumably so good they will score anyway. The Bucs are way better up and down, except maybe at the top three points of attack.
So is this fantasy football or what? For an old school soccer fan like this hackwriter, the fat kids are definitely important, and it just seems impossible to favor the team that has a clear disadvantage on the scrimmage line.
If offensive linemen are just excess baggage, why the Browns currently employ five stud-quality athletes from left to right: pick Jedrick Wills in the first round; Pro bowler Joel Bitonio; JC Tretter, who this author believes should be sent to the Pro Bowl every year; Wyatt Teller, who is about to open a chain of pancake restaurants, and Pro Bowl are up against Jack Conklin?
In contrast, the Kansas City Chiefs started the season with three Cleveland Browns offensive linemen in 2016-2017 and, in fact, three the team didn’t want. Browns fans may remember the Browns thinking they didn’t need Joe Thomas’ buddy Mitchell Schwartz, and they waved goodbye after he asked for too big a raise. He went to Kansas City, where he went all-pro in 2018 and had the second-longest consecutive Snap streak in history at 7,895 behind Thomas with 10,363. But this season the Chiefs lost the same Mitchell Schwartz to injury. Like the Browns in 2016, they have to learn to play without him.
The quota makers say the Chiefs won’t miss Schwartz. You also won’t miss the 2020 pro bowler Eric Fisher on the left attack post where his job is to protect Mahomes’ blindside. Fisher broke an Achilles in the AFC title game.
The 2016 Browns roster had Austin Reiter as a highly respected backup center (no one really could figure out why it was cut), and the same guy is starting for Kansas City. He’s doing a good job. Andrew Wylie was on the Browns training team in 2017. He, too, ended up in Kansas City, where he became a solid security guard.
But Wylie is now moving to the right as backup Mike Remmers has to move to the left to replace Fisher. Ex-steeler Stefan Wisniewski moves in. The chances of winning don’t seem to mind switching a guard to the correct device. Apparently it’s okay to postpone a right attack to a left attack at the last minute too.
On the upside, Nick Allegretti played well in place of security guard Kelechi Osemele, who is also in IR, and Remmers was a good replacement for Schwartz. In summary, the Chiefs Remmers, Allegretti, Reiter, Wisniewski and Wylie will line up. Only one player started the season in the same place where he will play on Sunday. Three players are playing new positions from two weeks ago.
None of these players to beat because they’re all in the NFL for a reason, but they’ve had very little opportunity to play together, and now it’s Super Bowl time. When was there an O-Line with so little experience in the Super Bowl?
Now they meet Vita Vea, William Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. Yikes
Apparently, Patrick Mahomes is so good that the betting crowd thinks he can just walk around and evade Tampa’s talented defensive front and still complete the passes for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The 2016 Browns tried this theory on a smaller scale, relying on two recipients with talent in Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge, though certainly not in Hill or Kelce’s class. The result, however, was that quarterbacks were inserted.
They’ve gone through six quarterbacks this year: Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Kevin Hogan, Charlie Whitehurst, and even Pryor took a few snaps. They were all injured, with multiple concussions, broken collarbones, sprained ankles and just plain beaten. However, this is not going to happen to Mahomes, or at least that is the consensus point of view. In fact, Fox Sports and ESPN have been discussing how long it will take Mahomes to beat Brady’s record of ten Super Bowl appearances. Hey, only eight left, gang! Should be easy.
Is Mahomes Really That Much Better Than Brady? If we talk over a period of several years to build a team around him, he sure is. Mahomes can do throws that no one else can, behind the back and things like that. But what about on Sunday just for this one game? Is he so much better than Brady now?
90 percent of the time, it’s about doing normal forward passes out of your pocket, not trick passes or 80 yard downfield bombs. Brady can hit ordinary meat and potato passing games just as well as anyone if held upright in his pocket. His team is in much better shape than Mahomes’ team up and down, with multiple reception options: Mike Evans, Gronk, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Scotty Miller, to name a few.
The fat kids are much more established. From left to right they have Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and former Baltimore Raven Ryan Jensen in the middle. Right guard Alex Cappa joined the IR with a broken ankle and was replaced by Aaron Stinnie for the third year. The strong rookie Tristan Wirfs was a stallion in a real duel.
The readers of this room realize that this writer actually does not believe in the headline’s first premise that the Chiefs will win, at least not through the anticipated aerial warfare battle.
Quarterback isn’t the only position that matters. Hopefully JC Tretter, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills won’t look for me after the game to bake me to death after the Super Bowl for my unreasonable demands. Indeed, the Browns shouldn’t cut the entire offensive line.
The Chiefs offensive line does mean something, and this patched line will limit the effectiveness of the Chiefs’ offense. It’s the NFL and anything can and usually does, but it’s unlikely for Mahomes and the passing game to continue as normal. The odds makers are smarter than this hack-writer, but still the collective failure of soccer analysts to explain the problems the chiefs encountered on the border is puzzling.
If the Chiefs win, it might be because Andy Reid and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can figure out how Tom Brady can cough the ball off a couple of times. It probably won’t be because Mahomes can take a seven-grade drop, stand high in his pocket, and fire his usual lightning bolts.
Who knows, maybe Mahomes is actually good enough to make this fan look stupid (actually, it’s not that hard after all), and maybe he’ll break logic, throw four TD passes, and end the Brady dynasty. Then we’ll be forced to re-believe the hideous statistics of the “quarterback won loss record” and admit that offensive linemen are not that important. If so, it’s just the quarterback, stupid.
Then Baker Mayfield and his agent will sit down with Andrew Berry this off-season and get good news. Berry could say something like this: “Great news, we recalibrated our analytical models and found that offensive linemen are dead weight. We decided to give in to your contract requirements. We’ll give you the money you want. We cut all skilled linemen and give you the money we wanted to pay you. Just run for your life next year until Jarvis or Odell opens and you’ll be fine. Congratulations and please sign on the dotted line. “
Hopefully this is not the future. Football can’t just be about the quarterback. In my humble (and often flawed) opinion. We hope that the importance of the offensive line is clearly expressed on Sunday and that the team that dominates up front wins the game.